Marquee athletes get paid to perform at a high level under pressure. More importantly, they know what it takes to get to the big leagues. The punchline to the old joke “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” applies to athletes and actors alike. “Practice, practice, practice!” Here are 2 things athletes can teach actors about auditioning.
Prepare more than you think you need to.
You’ve spent some time in the batting cage, you’ve been hitting the ball regularly so you feel like you’re ready for game day. The next day, with the game on the line, the manager says “You’re up” and you step out of the dugout and up to the plate.
But somehow, your time in the cage didn’t quite prepare you for this. Your hands are sweating, your breathing is shallow and you can feel your heart beating in your chest. You don’t have time to take a few swings and get in a groove. The crowd is staring at you and, unlike the pitching machine, the pitcher isn’t just throwing fastballs! You try to concentrate on your swing but you get confused and your timing is thrown off. Three strikes later you’re back in the dugout wondering what happened. Welcome to the big leagues!
Sound familiar? Preparing your sides for an audition in your batting cage... I mean livingroom...doesn’t adequately prepare you for an actual audition. These 2 things will help you enormously. First, set up a camera and have someone read (next to it) with you as a casting director would. This simulates “game conditions” so you won’t be thrown in the audition room. You’ll also be able to watch the playback to make sure what you intend is what’s coming across on camera.
Second, make sure you hit way more balls than you think you need to. Use every waking moment you have, from the time you get your sides right up to your audition, to work on your scene. Become so familiar with it that you know your lines inside and out. Get them in your DNA. Work harder than you think you need to. Work like your life depended on it because your professional life does depend on it. This is the big leagues. Don’t show up unprepared. If you’re thinking about what line comes next you’re not engaged in the conflict of the scene.
If the casting director throws you a curveball and asks you to read it a different way it won’t be a big deal because you’re rock solid and are ready to play. Is it required that you’re off book for an audition? No. Will you give a better audition because you are? Absolutely. Make the most of your audition opportunities. Thorough preparation is the key to a successful audition.
Solid Preparation Quiets Audition Nerves
Preparation is your best defense against audition nerves. If you’re consistently hitting it out of the park 9 times out of 10 in practice, you’re going to feel pretty good about your chances when you step up to the plate to bat. That confidence is a beautiful thing. It allows you to step up and do what you know how to do.
Have you ever seen a major league player nervous to the point they’re shaking at the plate? No, because you don’t get to play in the majors if you do. And if your nerves and insecurities are showing at your audition you don’t get to play roles on TV or film either. Professional athletes and professional actors deliver under pressure. They’re professional because their fundamentals are impeccable giving them the foundation and the confidence to be their best when it counts.
Not having to worry about mechanics like hitting and fielding, or remembering your lines and being aware of what you look like on camera, let’s you focus on higher level concerns like playing the game or listening and pursuing what you need in the scene. It’s sad but, in many cases, actors just don’t put in the hours of hard work it takes to prepare to be great. Get your fundamentals down so you’re free to play your game at the audition.
Want 6 pro steps to prepare for your next audition? I invite you to grab a copy of my free guide The 6 Secrets of a Working Actor here.
All my best,
Philip Hernandez is a respected acting teacher and singing coach in NYC. He is also the only actor in Broadway history to play both Jean Valjean and Inspector Javert in Les Miserables. He created principal roles in Broadway’s Kiss of the Spiderwoman and Paul Simon’s The Capeman. You may also know him from his many television appearances: The Blacklist, Gotham, Blue Bloods, The Path, Bull, Nurse Jackie, Elementary, Person of Interest, Law and Order, Hostages and Damages to name a few. For information about acting lessons CLICK HERE or singing lessons CLICK HERE.